Unschooling means we’re becoming tourists in our own region, and what a place it is to be a tourist. There are a handful of world-class attractions in Western South Dakota— the Badlands, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore. And there are dozens of true gems—the Mammoth Site, the Wild Horse Sanctuary, The Black Hills Institute, Wind Cave.
But I think what I love best about South Dakota is its world-class kitsch. Life-sized dinosaurs and wildlife museums located in gas stations and human mazes and the entire town of Wall, South Dakota. The world’s largest prairie dog statue and jackalopes and wild west replica towns and chuckwagon suppers.
I happen to love the kind of experience that makes me giggle helplessly in mild discomfort and medium-sized disbelief even as others around me seem fully committed and engaged. And South Dakota is full of just those kinds of places.
A careful reading of TripAdvisor reviews helps me curate my field trip wishlist—a wishlist no one in my family shares, I might add. When I read that a gold mine tour is “worth it if you have very low expectations,” I feel certain I can adjust mine accordingly. When I read that the Presidential Wax Museum “inspired a sense of unease and hilarity,” I’m in.
This afternoon, our destination is the #3 rated shopping experience in Rapid City, the Pawnseum. “It’s half a pawn shop and half a museum,” TripAdvisor promises. Of course it is!
I love it as soon as we walk in. There’s a replica old timey jail where you can take photos of your family members behind bars. Chewbacca looks down from the roof.
My son makes a beeline for the wall of guitars. We meet up in the middle of the store at the museum where there is a display of the world’s tiniest dog, Pawnzi, who was taxidermied in the 1860s.
“Do you want to see the video about Pawnzi?” a salesperson asks.
Do we ever?! My family wanders off, but I watch every moment of the video, even though the sound isn’t working.
Right around the corner, there’s a case with one of Michael Jackson’s sequined gloves.
It just doesn’t get any better than this, folks.